Silences

“Sheila , what’s taking you so long? Hurry up, I’ve got to go! ” Rajiv commands.
Sheila comes out of the kitchen , drenched in sweat , with Rajiv’s black lunch box in her hand and says “sorry” in a mellow tone.

“You have been cooking every single day for the past 9 years and what skill does it require, i ask you ? It is not like you have to use your brains or something.So , why does it take you so long to cook ?, enquires Rajiv in his habitual condescending temper.

“Silence” was the only language Sheila had ever known , especially with her husband. She waves a silent good bye as the elevator door shuts her husband off till midnight.

“Sheila ,aren’t you going to Rachana’s school?”Rajiv’s colleague’s wife and Sheila’s good friend Namita asks her over the phone. “I need to seek Rajiv’s permission first” , Sheila responds.

“Come on Sheila, its not like you are under 18″retorts Namita.”This is a huge decision and i can’t keep Rajiv out of the picture ” Sheila says in her composed aspect . “See you at the party tonight ” Namita adds before ending the conversation.

The doorbell rings at 6pm . Sheila is busy in the kitchen , cooking Rachana’s favourite snacks. Her 6 year old daughter Rachana runs to get the door and jumps excitedly to see her father back from office , surprisingly early on a Wednesday. She says gleefully”Papa, mamma is cooking my favourite snacks. Isn’t she the best mom ever?”Rajiv bypasses the question, dashes to the kitchen and lashes out verbally at Sheila again .”Didn’t i tell you to be ready for my boss’s party on Wednesday evening? How could you possibly forget ?” ” Rajiv… I…I am sorry. I was just going to get ready”, Sheila nervously mutters even as waves of words scream in her mind .

“I don’t like your attire, Sheila” Rajiv complains .” You would look so completely out of place” he adds. Rachana interrupts the new gush of burning words with her cool words of pleasant appreciation “Mamma, you look beautiful in the red saree.” Sheila hugs her daughter tight hoping for the heaviness to dissipate.

“Rajiv , can i apply for teaching in Rachana’s school? Rachana will have full time school, beginning next year and i can make good of my time and education. We can hire a cook to help us with the kitchen work” Sheila says in the sincere manner of seeking Rajiv’s permission, on their way to the party. “Please Sheila, who’s going to hire you after a 7 year career break? And do i not earn enough to provide for the family? Don’t torture yourself with fresh thoughts of taking up a job”. “Silence ” once again even as Sheila thinks about her rich academic background, her rich experience and the possibilities of a thriving career with a supportive husband.

Sheila is relieved to spot Namita in the party . Namita is her most gorgeous self in her black sequinned gown with an air of comfortable confidence . She hugs Sheila and the ladies compliment each other on their appearances . The conversation ultimately meanders to Sheila’s habitual silence vis-a-vis Rajiv’s loud proclamation-like words, even in public spaces. “I want Rachana to grow up in peace. That’s all. Don’t worry about my silence , i am quite used to it. ” says Sheila in a reassuring tone. “No Sheila, you are setting a wrong example for Rachana. Only when she sees you standing up for yourself in the face of unjust remarks and comments is she going to grow up to be a confident, assertive young lady.”Namita states assertively .

“I know why Rajiv isn’t excited about you applying in Rachana’s school.Keeping you economically-crippled is a sure shot way to keep subjugating you .Namita adds in a charged-up spirit. “Namita, financial independence isn’t a guarantee to a fulfilling life or the incidents of divorce wouldn’t have increased to such alarming proportions. Its patience that helps relationships survive” Sheila sates as though justifying her own silence.” You are misunderstanding me, Sheila.While its commendable that you are enthusiastic about defending your husband despite everything, you need to wake up and take charge of your life for the sake of your daughter,at least.”Namita says matter-of-factly.

Its past dinner time and Sheila is still caught up with her friends in the party, including Mrs. D’Souza , Rajiv’s boss’s wife. Mrs. D’souza is the dean of Sociology in a renowned college . “Rajiv, your wife has a brilliant academic record . Besides , she also has teaching experience in a reputed college. I would let you guys know if there’s a vacancy in my college for the position of contractual lecturers. She shouldn’t have to waste her academic talents like this”Rajiv nods reluctantly to Mrs. D’Souza’s suggestion.

In the backseat of their posh sedan , Sheila smiles to herself , caressing sleepy Rachana’s soft curls, on their way back home . Her silent eyes are dreaming a silent dream about discovering her voice again.

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